Earlier this week, it was encouraging to read that one of South Sudan’s rebel leaders, Gatluak Gai, had agreed to reintegrate his forces into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which is the armed wing of the ruling party and the official armed force of the newly independent state.
Now Gai is dead. The SPLA says he was shot by his own troops. His death is making it less likely that other rebels will agree to lay down their arms:
A separate rebel group headed by former southern army officer Peter Gadet, which is also active in Unity state, said the SPLA had killed Gai. “Gatluak Gai has been killed by the SPLA. They shot him,” spokesman Gatkuoth Kol said.
Sudan watchers say Gai was not one of the top rebel leaders and was less powerful than Gadet or George Athor, another militia commander.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has renewed an offer of amnesty to armed groups fighting his government, but previous pardons have had little success.
Kol said rebels led by Gadet and Athor will reject the amnesty offer after Gai’s killing.
South Sudan may have eliminated one of its rebel commanders – he is one of seven, by some counts – but Gai’s death could raise the stakes in other conflicts, and seems to have made the remaining rebels feel that continuing their violence against the state is the only viable option. The SPLA’s job just got harder.